While the captains and deckhands of Deadliest Catch dodge 30-foot waves and 800-pound crab pots, the film crew catching their every move has to also focus on angles and shots.
Prior to the filming the Discovery Channel docuseries 15th season (premiering Tuesday, April 9 at 9 p.m. ET), PopCulture.com's Anna Rumer visited Dutch Harbor, Alaska, to try her hand at greenhorning on the F/V Summer Bay and see how the Deadliest Catch production team was changing the game behind the scenes.
"For the show, we're out in the middle of the Bering Sea, and it is about as bad as you can imagine for shooting just as a shooter," Deadliest Catch Director of Photography David Reichert told PopCulture. "We're using better and better equipment, because we're 15 years in. We need to make this thing better every year. After 15 years, we're pretty high up there, but this year ... it is, without a doubt, the biggest look upgrade we've done in the 15-year history of the show."
One of the biggest challenges shooting Deadliest Catch is catching the half the action that goes down in the dark, but for Season 15, the Discovery team rolled out state-of-the-art camera system that can pick up even the tiniest bit of light from wheelhouse operations and turn them into a fully-visible scene.
"We're seeing the whole world, not just like a little pool of light that we're trying to use," Reichert explained. "The captains are so grumpy out there that they don't let us turn our lights on, and so we really struggle to make a good images at night. That's over, because of what these cameras can do for us."
And while the Deadliest Catch captains have always been seen as heroes to their fans, they'll now shine like action heroes with the addition of wheelhouse lighting done by the gaffer who lit John Wick, and pushed even further in post-production with the addition of state-of-the-art DaVinci software that helps editors refine every shot like it was going to play on the silver screen.
"We're putting movie pictures, cinema-quality pictures, on television, in a show that is happening in the middle of the Bering Sea, chasing a bunch of crabbers around that you can't hardly control," Reichert emphasized. "But, you know, you put all that together, and you got something pretty great."
With all the technological leaps and bounds producers are taking in Season 15, however, one of the biggest challenges every season is simply keeping the cameras on deck from getting drenched or lost at sea.
"I mean, one guy lost six in like a week once," Reichert revealed to PopCulture. "I don't know how that happened, but I think that we plan on losing about probably about eight or nine cameras a season out there."
As for keeping them dry, sometimes simple is best.
"This show has tried everything," he continued of the efforts to waterproof the cameras. "We have built carbon fiber — each one of them probably cost $20,000 — capsules, like housings, for the cameras. We have bought the professional rain covers, and done it all. We have painted the cameras in tool dip, which is like this plastic coating. We've done everything. But really, what we have found is the best thing is the giant, blue Ziploc that we'll cover the camera in."
Whether it's Hollywood lighting or a simple plastic bag that keeps the cameras rolling, the resultant footage is truly one of a kind.
"It's a hundred percent different than everything else on TV," Reichert said. "Yeah, nobody else is doing what we're doing. Not even close right now."
Deadliest Catch Season 15 premieres Tuesday, April 9 at 9 p.m. ET on Discovery.
Photo credit: Discovery